Egypt develops high-yield arid-resistant GMO wheat but activist opposition blocks biotechnology advances

Wheat cultivation in the arid desert of Assiut, south of Cairo (Photo by: Tarek Abd El-Galil)

Researchers at Egypt’s National Research Center (NRC), affiliated with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, obtained a patent for a new [genetically engineered] compound, which includes microorganisms that increases wheat yields in arid and semi-arid regions by as much as 68 percent.

“The new compound would contribute to increasing wheat productivity by making it possible to plant wheat in completely arid lands,” said Wafaa Haggag, head of the Center’s Agricultural Research and Biology Division.

The compound will increase production by reducing stresses on wheat as it grows and increasing the concentration of raw protein and carbohydrates in wheat grains. It will also help to inhibit bacteria and viruses in the soil that attack wheat and increase plant resistance to disease.


Egypt is one of the countries most at risk for desertification due to its climate and geography. Eighty-six percent of Egyptian land is classified as very arid and the other 14 percent is classified as arid. Only four percent of land is suitable for agriculture….

Although their new compound won a patent, NRC researchers are not yet able to produce it because it is currently illegal to manufacture genetically modified products in Egypt.

“To date, there is no legislative law that organizes and regulates the production, circulation and use of genetically modified organisms or the control of genetic engineering research,” said Rasha Ali, a researcher at the Department of Biochemistry for Plant Protection at the National Center for Research. “This keeps all the research in this field in drawers,” she added.


A law was drafted and proposed in 2016, but it has yet to be debated by parliament.

“Egypt’s needs to apply agricultural genetic engineering is of utmost necessity in light of the continuous increase in population, decline in green areas and climate change,” said [Ahmed Murad, a professor and former president of the Agricultural Research Center’s Institute of Food Technology.]

Read full, original post: In Egypt, Genetic Crop Modification Is On Hold

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